DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Not mine, no profit, just some day-dreaming I wrote down - everything belongs to the BBC and Sally Wainwright).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is gentle fluff - it has neither angst nor high drama but gently potters along and is almost certainly a little bit sugary and 'neat', but that's what this pairing triggers for me and I make no apology. It is slightly autobiographical, drawing, as perhaps was inevitable, on my own school experiences when we did have such a concert, as depicted in the story, complete with surprising staff cameos.
STORY CANON POINTS: To make things work, I've decided Kate went to Cambridge University (to compliment Caroline's Oxford University pedigree) and William is now there himself. Lawrence is about 14 and in his last year before embarking on the two year GCSE courses (UK school years 10 and 11). John is still being brattish but the divorce is progressing to plan and very much 'off screen'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
Some Dances in Harrogate
"There's Sam! Can I go with him Mum?" asked Lawrence, catching sight of his best friend in the crowd only ahead of them as they came out of Caroline's office after their impromptu picnic supper.
"Only if his parents don't mind," said Caroline automatically, smiling as Lawrence was already threading through the crowd to catch up with them as they were about to enter the packed school hall, knowing there wouldn't really be an issue as she'd discussed it with Sylvia, Sam's mother when they'd bumped into each other whilst waiting for the rugby trip to return yesterday. "I guess his friend is more exciting that I am," joked Caroline, not in the least bit offended.
"Bet he comes to find you at the interval."
"Ooo, a wager! What's the stake?" Caroline smirked at Kate, inwardly massively relieved that Kate seemed to be able to laugh and joke a little now that a little bit of 'family' time had helped to create a distance from the afternoon's unpleasantness. Before Kate could answer however, they were interrupted by parents, requiring both of them to shift into their professional personas, roles they had to maintain down the length of the corridor and into the hall where, parents finally satisfied, they were rescued by Beverley.
"Caroline, Kate Lawrence is already towards the front with Sam but I saved you some seats at the back," explained the efficient as always secretary, gesturing towards two seats on the end of the back row which would be well out of the way of the bulk of the audience come the interval but easily accessible should Caroline have to 'perform' as Headmistress although the plan was that she wouldn't.
"Wonderful, thank you," said Kate for both of them as Caroline had to acknowledge a passing Governor, the linguist once again admiring how subtly and easily Beverley had adapted and adjusted to their relationship.
"Gavin's around here somewhere."
"Looking for me?" asked Caroline, wondering what the Chairman of the Governors could possibly want after an entire afternoon with her whilst he wasn't quite as bad as her mother thought, she did agree he was smarmy and she really had had enough of his company for one day.
"Both of you, something about an apology," Beverley paused as she watched both of their faces fall, "but I shall continue to fail to find you," she declared knowingly, having, like all the very best secretaries, a perfectly clear understanding of what was going on.
"You're a star, thank you."
"Now, go take a seat and enjoy yourselves!" encouraged Beverley, shooing them off in the direction of their seats which, in an act of supreme cunning and logistics were next to a pair of seats that just 'happened' to be reserved for two very important people who would never quite manage to make it to the otherwise full to capacity hall.
"So " began Caroline quietly, once they were in their seats, sat decorously like the Headmistress and one of her staff should, waiting for the highlight of the school event year to begin, "what's the stake for our bet?"
"How about " Conscious of their location, Kate leaned across so she could murmur something in Caroline's ear without actually leaning in to Caroline's body so there was always clear daylight between them and thus an illusion of professionalism.
"Won't that be " Caroline cleared her throat, " technically difficult?"
"Not stopped us in the past," muttered Kate, deliberately fixing her gaze on the printed programme, grateful that her natural colouring meant it was hard for most people to see when she was blushing. Any witty comeback Caroline might have been able to make had her brain not stalled was thwarted with the sudden dimming of the hall lights and the onset of loud cheering as, onto the stage appeared the Head of Music, unusually smartly dressed in a dinner jacket and black bow tie in recognition of his role as the evening's appointed Master of Ceremonies as well as playing the drums in the on-stage band made up of music department members. Accepting the fact that, for this round at least, Kate was going to get the last word in, Caroline took advantage of the darkness and their relative isolation and reached out to grasp Kate's hand. As gestures went, it was small but significant, discreet but daring and, judging by the squeeze that Kate gave in return, comfortable and welcome for both of them. As days went, today's had been particularly shitty, as evenings were going however, whilst this wasn't what she would have chosen as a way for them to recover, if everything carried on like this, well, maybe it would turn out alright after all.
They'd survived the interval; Lawrence had indeed come to find them, much to Kate's amused delight as it enabled her to remind Caroline that a bet had been made. Lawrence had interpreted his mother's blushes as embarrassment at being caught being so silly and unwittingly added to her torment by teasing her when, in reality, her blushes had absolutely nothing to do with making or losing of the bet and everything to do with Kate's whispered stakes which, as Kate knew all too well, were actually best described as 'win-win' for both of them.
Despite Beverley's best efforts, Gavin had found them, joining their little family group right at the punch line of one of Lawrence's retellings of some of the Asterix he'd read earlier that day, meaning the Chairman of the Governors' attempted apology to Kate and Caroline on behalf of all the Governors for the behaviour of their former colleague (dismissed that afternoon) took a little longer than anyone really wanted and was only, rather awkwardly, concluded with the ringing of the school bell which signified that the second half was about to start.
"That was "
"Awkward?" suggested Caroline, a smile fixed firmly on her face as they navigated the crowds of parents and pupils in an attempt to return to their seats before the lights were dimmed.
"Unexpected did you know they wanted us to know that?" asked Kate, not clear what the object of that apology had been, since it wasn't like Caroline didn't know the English teacher had been dismissed, having spent most of her afternoon embroiled in all the necessary paperwork and discussion to ensure it actually happened.
"No, they must have discussed it during the reserve business item after I'd left."
"Do you think that's the end?"
"End?" Caroline nodded to Beverley as the threaded their way around to their seats, relieved to be out of the crowd of parents, any one of whom could and would expect her to remember exactly who their child was and be able to speak knowledgably about their individual brilliance.
"End of people apologising?" asked Kate, feeling bad for sounding so ungrateful but, as far as she was concerned, the outburst had happened, been dealt with and now she just wanted to move forward having to discuss it with every colleague who wanted to apologise for it was really not helping the moving forward part.
"You might have to suffer until the end of term," sympathised Caroline, completely understanding Kate's point what had been said couldn't be unsaid the best they could hope for now was for everyone to move on and for it to not happen again.
"Yet another reason to be counting the hours," joked Kate as they finally, after letting a couple of stragglers pass by them to reach their seats in the middle of the row, were able to take their own seats.
"Tell me about it " agreed Caroline, smiling into the descending darkness when she felt Kate take her hand .their evening was maybe turning out to be not so bad after all .
"Ladies and Gentlemen if I could encourage you to take your seats again?" It took a couple of goes but eventually, the Head of Music managed to get the excited audience to calm down enough for him to start on the traditional closing remarks before, if history intended to repeat itself, a couple of encores would be played.
"Thank you. Now, as those of you who have been to one of these before will know, I normally say a few words about how great this evening's concert has been and hopefully get you all to agree that this year's concert was as good as last year's " he had to pause whilst a cheer started but, when it became clear he wasn't quite finished, it quietened down and he was able to continue, " thing is, I'm not going to ask you that this year, because I don't think this year was as good as last year " he paused just long enough for people to stop and think before continuing, " I think it was even better, would you agree?" His laughter was drowned out by the raucous cheering that confirmed what everyone who had been involved on the stage during the evening had been feeling throughout the evening whilst prior years had been very, very good, especially for a school concert, tonight's concert had been something quite extraordinary. When the audience began to show signs of cheering itself hoarse, at least for a moment, he continued.
"In fact, I think I might be in trouble with the Bursar because I do believe you've literally raised the roof tonight!" More laughter echoed around the hall, this time led by the parents.
"It's at this point that I need to ask for some cheers of thanks let's start with all our excellent singers this evening I know you've already clapped your hands raw, but let's hear it one more time for everyone?" As all the pupils shuffled onto the stage to take what was now the traditionally haphazard 'company bow' the audience cheered and many stamped their feet or whistled to add to the noise.
"Wow, okay, well perhaps a smaller cheer for my fellow music teachers who've joined me in accompanying the stars of the show?" Despite his modest request, the cheer from the audience was loud and long as various members of the music staff stood up and waved.
"And how about a cheer for our very indulgent Headmistress who every year lets us get away with ever more ambitious programmes she knows her Gorillaz from her Gershwin thank you Dr Elliot!" Once again the audience cheered and whistled as the annual appreciation to Caroline for letting the once very sombre 'school music concert' become ever more varied as it was driven by the musical interests of the pupils rather than the expectations of the Governors (as her predecessor had insisted) was given, something Caroline wished they'd stop doing as, for a number of years, all she'd done was nod and say 'yes, but let me listen to the original first, ok?' to any random request or suggestion.
"Now, usually I'd stop with the thanks but there is one person we haven't thanked yet and who everyone up here," he gestured to all the teachers and pupils on the stage around him, "all agree is the reason this year is even better than ever before." He had to pause as the pupils on stage all spontaneously started cheering, much to the curiosity of the audience.
"What's going on?" whispered Caroline, no more enlightened as to what her Head of Music was going on about than anyone else.
"I have no idea," replied Kate, biting her lip.
"Then why are you squeezing my hand so tight?"
"Umm." Before Kate could attempt to explain or even consciously relax her grip on Caroline's hand, the Head of Music did it for her.
"Many of you know her as your Modern Languages teacher, some of you know her as the only one able to tame the Chapel Organ " he held up his hand for silence as some started cheering a little too early, " she's also the only one talented enough to get the staff choir to sound good, and, to our great delight as I'm sure you'll all agree, I finally persuaded her to help us all out with tonight's programme. Can I ask you for your biggest cheer of the night, one guaranteed to raise the roof and upset the Bursar, cos let's face it, I'm probably already in trouble for this " his joke triggered a ripple of genuine laughter through the whole audience as Caroline just looked at Kate in amazement. How had she not known this? " and it's the only way we're going to get Miss McKenzie up here to help with the encores, so, if you'd be so kind, can I have a huge cheer of thanks for all the help Miss McKenzie has given us?" and, as he peered out into the dark hall hoping she actually was out there somewhere (his spies had spotted her at the interval, but that was no guarantee), the loudest, most enthusiastic cheer of the night, led by the pupils and teachers on stage, erupted.
"You're amazing." Caroline had to shout to be heard, despite being mere centimetres from Kate's ear.
"I " Kate was stunned she didn't deserve this, didn't expect this all she'd done was help some of the pupils who sang in her choir pick their solos and help them with some of the trickier bits.
"Go on, you deserve it," encouraged Caroline, as proud of Kate now as she had been of William on Palm Sunday.
"Did you " Kate was overwhelmed still, time moving so slowly it felt like it had stopped, unable to quite comprehend what was happening.
"Have anything to do with this? No, I didn't even know you'd helped!" And, with a big grin (she wasn't disciplined enough to be able to hug Kate and not kiss her indecently given their surroundings), Caroline pushed the embarrassed Kate into the aisle and joined in the applause, though, confident no one was really able to see them tucked away in their corner, she did risk blowing Kate a kiss.
With no escape, Kate took a composing breath and, grateful once again that her colouring meant no one could really tell she was blushing, set off towards the stage, her fingers instinctively flexing and stretching when she saw the school's shiny grand piano being pushed to the centre of the stage. Finally (seconds that felt like hours to Kate) she arrived on stage alongside Mark, the Head of Music who, whilst they waited for the cheering to quieten down, said
"This is the only memory you need of today," as he gave her a friendly hug.
"I'm going to kill you!" she joked, touched by how supportive he was being with his acknowledgment of the afternoon without actually mentioning it directly.
"No, you're not " he teased, pleased to see her smile a little before adding, " but Caroline probably will, for embarrassing you like this."
"Probably," she agreed before deciding she'd stood on the stage long enough so, turning for the microphone, she remarked conversationally, "I feel underdressed," whilst gesturing towards her normal teaching clothes of trousers and top, which compared with the black dresses and smart suits the singers had been wearing, were a little plain.
"Finally, an excuse to lose this thing!" and, to the delight of the pupils in the audience, the usually scruffy Head of Music took off his dinner jacket, pulled off his tie and loosened his collar buttons. "Ready?" he asked, gesturing towards the piano stool, grinning what he'd always been told was his most charming smile, earning him an eye roll and a playful thump from Kate. Whilst she took a moment to get comfortable at the keyboard and try to work out what the hell was going to happen next, he continued to explain to the still excited audience, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have no idea what's about to happen but I know we're all going to enjoy it." And, with a final nod to Kate, he retreated back to his drum kit, as eager as everyone else in the hall to see what happened next.
For one brief, horrible moment, Kate looked at the keyboard and her mind went totally blank, almost as if she'd never sat at a piano before, totally lacking any idea what to do or play. Just as she was about to think about panicking, she looked up at the pupils, her pupils who had come to choir practices, persuaded her to watch clips of Glee, dared her to play different types of music on the piano and organ, had, through their enthusiasm enthused her with the various inspirations to inspire them to be even better than they had been, to have a go at things they hadn't dared to try. Suddenly, instead of being devoid of ideas, she was spoilt for choice, her mind full of options, choices, possibilities
"Miss McKenzie?" Jessica, the popular Head Girl who was also Sam's older sister had managed to weave her way around the back of the piano and appear by the keyboard.
"What do you want to sing?" asked Kate, recognising from how everyone else was moving about on the stage that maybe there was a plan after all.
"I heard what happened, in the staff room," Kate winced, "that song we did last week? I think I get it now " the Head Girl admitted, remembering as Kate did, the song she'd been singing last week that she'd thought she was singing really well but Kate had told her she could sing it better if only she'd think about the words of the song as well as the tune.
"You want to sing it?" Kate's hands were already drifting towards the opening chords.
"We all want to " and, with a nod of agreement, Kate waited whilst Jessica moved to the front of the stage, ready to sing.
The gentle chords of the introduction calmed the over-excited audience and, sensing the mood change, they all retook their seats, eager for what was about to come next. A few moments later, the drums took up a soft beat as the music teachers making up the band joined in with support, enabling Kate to develop the tune a little more. When the introduction finished, the tune was picked up by the Head Girl who, thinking about the lyric as well as the tune, started to sing 'I wish I knew how it would feel to be free', the rich notes carrying a haunting, thoughtful texture that hadn't been there before in when she'd sung this song and, the audience realised, hadn't been there in the other Nina Simone songs she'd sung earlier in the concert.
From her seat at the back of the Hall, Caroline sat in shock, unable to fully comprehend quite what she was discovering certainly she knew the school was blessed with some dedicated music teachers who every year encouraged talented students to participate in what was, by most school concert standards, something quite exceptional and technically very accomplished. She also knew, from other school events and from the sheet music lying around Kate's home, that her girlfriend was just as talented and skilled as the members of the music department, with the School Choir enhancing the end of term chapel services with a wide range of wonderful music more usually expected from Cathedral Schools than anything Sulgrave Heath had ever previously enjoyed. What she hadn't known, admittedly because she'd never asked (and she completely understood why her modest girlfriend wouldn't have volunteered), was the extent of Kate's quiet input into this concert, having always been very careful about not encroaching on the music department's territory.
"Here " Her focus on Kate, who was easily accompanying Jessica through the beautiful song with just the right level of improvisation, was so strong that Caroline had failed to notice either Beverley sit down in Kate's empty seat or the fact that, on some sub-conscious level (her conscious level being too distracted with Kate's piano playing to even notice the singer), the words of the song were penetrating her fuzzy brain, a brain which, still not totally calmed from the afternoon's events, had completely forgotten about dignity, decorum and a Headmistress' façade and was instead crying, tears pouring down her face.
"Thank you," sniffed Caroline, accepting the proffered tissues from her secretary when the song concluded and the audience, after a long moment of spell-bound silence, started cheering and applauding.
"She wouldn't want you crying," observed Beverley, their conversation continuing in spite of the prolonged applause, helping Caroline to find some composure at least for long enough to complete her evening's duty.
"No, she wouldn't," agreed Caroline, smiling at the good point her friend and colleague was making, "what would I do without you Bev?" she asked, turning to look at her.
"Make your own tea?" Laughing and unable to think of a way to answer that, Caroline turned her attention back to the stage where clearly, the microphone in her possession, the Head Girl was taking charge.
"Thank you. Now, since no one has any music and no one's got any sort of plan " at this she looked sheepishly towards Kate, " not to mention we're already in all sorts of trouble for embarrassing Miss McKenzie like this, it's only going to get messy if we try to sing something so, that leaves me only one question to ask " With a quick glance to the Head of Music who, in response twirled his drum sticks, clearly in on the plan and ready to play she asked, "how about some boogie-woogie?" And, before Kate could object, the beat was being sounded on the bass drum and she had no choice but to put her brain on autopilot and let her fingers just get on with it, much to the noisy delight of the audience who, in total contrast to the previous song, started jumping up and literally boogie-woogie-ing, caught up in the infectious, playful beat. It would be quite some time before anyone sat down again
"He's in bed at least," remarked Caroline as she came into the kitchen, "doubt he'll sleep for a while though."
"He won't be the only one," agreed Kate, thinking about all the adrenalin-fuelled pupils they'd seen leaving the school when the concert had finally finished, "tea?" she suggested, not really in the mood for wine.
"Hot chocolate?" countered Caroline, laughing when she saw Kate's eyes brighten.
"With marshmallows and cream?"
"Mmm, sugar rush?" joked Caroline, reaching for a small saucepan so she could start heating some milk.
"Not really," disagreed Kate, collecting the milk from the fridge and joining Caroline at the cooker before, once her hands were free, wrapping her arms around Caroline's waist and resting her chin on Caroline's shoulder, mirroring their pose from cooking less than a week ago when the what would become the saga of the book report had first begun, " more like Caroline rush," she amended, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to the underside of Caroline's jaw.
"Mmm mustn't let the milk burn " mumbled Caroline in a feeble attempt at protest, her arched neck allowing Kate even easier access to her neck and jaw.
"Best try and concentrate then," teased Kate, pulling Caroline's work shirt from her skirt and slipping her fingers underneath the fabric so she could start caressing warm skin, all the while not stopping her slow, lazy kisses.
"Kate " Caroline's voice, whilst husky and warm did have a hint of warning as the mature and responsible side of her regained enough control to assert itself just a little.
"I'll be good," agreed Kate, stopping her kisses and stilling her fingers.
"You don't need to be that good," sighed Caroline, somehow feeling like she'd lost contact with Kate even though she was still wrapped in her lover's loose embrace, " just not as distracting as you were," she admitted quietly, wondering how Kate would interpret her request.
"I'll behave," declared Kate, immediately contradicting her words by resuming her gentle caress of Caroline's stomach and pressing a simple, soft kiss to Caroline's neck, only to then stop with any further kisses, knowing that really wasn't fair on Caroline, " after all, it's not fair on the milk." This unexpected statement prompted a giggle from Caroline and served as a welcome distraction from the craving for another kiss she was also experiencing.
"You can explain to Lawrence why there's no milk for his cereal tomorrow."
"We've finished it all?"
"Not quite, but he can't drown his cereal with the bit that's left," explained Caroline, wondering how Kate would respond neither boy was particularly bright or brilliant at breakfast before school, with morning harmony generally achieved by the habitual adherence to a well-choreographed routine, a routine that now was often adjusted to include a second mug of coffee for Kate and Caroline only eating half of each piece of her toast because Kate stole the other half.
"It's the last day of term, I'll make breakfast waffles maybe?" volunteered Kate, deciding the routine would already be disrupted enough by Lawrence not wearing his school uniform.
"Is there no end to your hidden talents?" Caroline had intended the question to be a tease, a throwaway remark to lead them into a gentle round of flirtatious banter whilst they turned the now hot milk into large mugs of hot chocolate complete with cream and marshmallows. Instead, as she reached to turn the heat off, she felt Kate stiffen.
"Kate? What's wrong?" Milk forgotten, Caroline turned around in Kate's embrace and, seeing the troubled expression on her girlfriend's face, wrapped her arms around Kate's slender waist.
"I'm sorry, for tonight I didn't know "
"SShh " Caroline confirmed her request by stilling Kate's lips with her own, trying to provide a fleeting moment of reassurance to the clearly ill at ease Kate, " I'm not mad, or cross or angry or anything negative at all with you and I'm saying that as Dr Elliot as well as your girlfriend."
"But?" Relieved, Kate took a calming breath but was too astute to interpret Caroline's positive statement as a blanket declaration that closed any further discussion about the concert and her unexpected starring cameo at the end.
"But I'm going to have to be Dr Elliot to explain more," said Caroline, resting her forehead against Kate's, wanting as much of a physical connection with her lover whilst she spoke as she could, " you want to do this now?" she asked softly, knowing sometimes it was better to know everything but also recognising how hard they tried to keep their work and personal relationships as separate as possible without causing unnecessary amounts of stress.
"I think so," said Kate finally, clearly reluctant to admit it but recognising she probably wasn't going to be able to switch off enough to relax enough to sleep if she didn't understand the impact the evening's performance had had on her professional life. Whilst once she might have settled for the sleepless night, after the afternoon she'd had, she definitely needed sleep, ideally with her girlfriend and that meant listening to what Dr Elliot had to say tonight.
"Let's have the hot chocolate at the table then," said Caroline simply, pressing a last kiss on Kate's nose before dropping her arms from Kate's waist, " and there should be some dunkable biscuits in the tin by the kettle if you want."
Minutes later, large mugs of decadent hot chocolate in front of them, Caroline, with her shirt tucked back into her skirt, addressed the proverbial elephant that was now in the room with them.
"I'm going to ask Beverley to organise a meeting for me to talk to Jake and Mark," she began, naming the Heads of Modern Languages and Music, "I need them to tell me, between them, exactly what extra-curricular commitments you've been undertaking, in both departments." When Kate looked like she was about to protest, Caroline smiled gently and asked, "hear me out, please?" On seeing Kate's nod and, having taken a warming sip of hot chocolate, Caroline restarted what she wanted to say.
"You're employed as a full time modern languages teacher and, in the years you've been in the school, your classes have consistently been some of the Department's best and you now have one of the heavier teaching loads with the number of GCSE and A-Level classes that you teach. In addition to that, rather than taking on a form teacher role, you offered to help the music department out by playing the organ and working with the main school choirs as well as, for your sins, the staff choir." Caroline paused again to study Kate for a moment, relieved to note her facial expression was calm and attentive but worried Kate's overall posture was still tense.
"From tonight's amazing concert, it's clear you are helping out the music department far more than that, which " Caroline smiled when she saw Kate try to object before she evidently remembered she'd agreed to hear Caroline out, " I know you do willingly and without detriment to your duties in your own department, and clearly the pupils respond well to your help and I have absolutely no issue with that."
"But?" Kate couldn't help herself.
"But I need Mark to explain why his department needs so much help, want both of them to understand they need to work together to make sure you are able to continue to do whatever it is you do best, for both departments in a sustainable way that you are properly credited for."
"Which means?" Kate was beginning to relax properly as the significance of Caroline's words registered with her she was going to be able continue doing what she was doing, she wasn't in trouble for overstepping departmental boundaries.
"Oh, probably a pay rise " she was amused to see Kate's eyes widen that wasn't remotely what she had been thinking about, " only a small one, realistically," qualified Caroline, being all too familiar with the intricacies of the school's budgets and the Bursar's constant scrutiny of all things financial.
"Seriously? You're really not cross?"
"With you? No concerned that the involved Heads of Department didn't handle your teaching talents and commitment as well as I'd have hoped? Yes, and I'll fix that. Annoyed that your good nature and willingness to muck in and help out has been unnoticed and underappreciated by the school authority for too long? Definitely. Is Dr Elliot embarrassed that something like this could go on for so long in her school without her knowing about it? She's too embarrassed to admit that, especially considering how well she knows the teacher in question and realises she's been assuming things again " Caroline smiled sheepishly at that last admission, causing Kate to grin, her shoulders completely relaxing for the first time since the start of the vote of thanks for her at the concert earlier, " but mostly Dr Elliot is just very thankful for and grateful to her talented, dedicated and musical Modern Languages teacher."
"Oh, wow, oh."
"Can I stop being Dr Elliot now?"
"You really okay?" asked Caroline, pulling her shirt out from her skirt again, the un-tucked shirt being one of the clearest signals she knew to give Kate that she definitely wasn't her Boss anymore, just her girlfriend.
"Today's been " Kate's attempt to describe the emotional ups and downs was lost in a yawn that caught her by complete surprise.
"Long," said Caroline succinctly, glancing up at the kitchen clock and seeing it was almost midnight.
"Mmm, yeah, and memorable," agreed Kate, finishing her hot chocolate and moving to stand up, Caroline's bed starting to call her loudly.
"You okay?" Caroline's voice was tender as she stood up, intent on helping Kate clear up the kitchen.
"Yes actually." Kate surprised herself with how easily and honestly that answer came, with the afternoon's excitement now firmly behind her, helped mainly by the swift and decisive response by the Governors on the advice of their Headmistress, but also by the solid, loving and supportive presence of Caroline who, in spite of everything else that had happened and required her attention as either mother or headmistress, had just been there, for her. "You?"
"Yes." Caroline paused to consider how to sum up her day without reopening the whole event for Kate. Maybe one day she'd explain what happened in her office when Josephine Connors had begun to face the reality of her situation, hopefully she'd never have to tell how she'd had to repeat everything that had happened to the Board of Governors, explaining the abuse she'd heard directed at Kate, the accusations thrown at Kate and her and the concerns she had for her son and other pupils who were from families with either black or gay members but not today, not tonight. Tonight was a time for something lighter, something that had nothing to do with the afternoon, nothing to do with Josephine Connors and the damage she'd almost done, " but don't think that little performance this evening gets you out of playing for me, even if it was extremely hot " teased Caroline, once again wrapping her arms around Kate's waist.
"You, a grand piano very, very hot " repeated Caroline, brushing a stray strand of hair from Kate's face.
"You liked it when I boogied?"
"And woogied " agreed Caroline, her breath hitching when she realised Kate was leaning in, presumably to initiate a kiss, prompting her to close her eyes in anticipation only to open them quickly in disappointment when, rather than enjoying some sort of kiss, she'd felt Kate lick the tip of her nose.
"What was that for?"
"You had cream, from the hot chocolate, on the end of your nose."
"I did?" It took a surprisingly large amount of willpower to resist the urge to touch the end of her nose to check.
"Since your first sip."
"So when I was " appalled, Caroline realised she'd had cream on her nose all the time they'd been having their serious conversation about work.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"You didn't want to be interrupted," observed Kate mildly, tucking a strand of Caroline's hair behind the blonde's ear.
"Kate " chided Caroline, knowing that wasn't the real reason.
"I didn't notice at first and, by the time I did, I was looking forward to licking it off," she concluded her explanation with another kiss (this time minus the lick) to the tip of Caroline's nose.
"Sap." Caroline leaned in for a lazy kiss that neither was in any rush to either escalate or conclude but another yawn from Kate unfortunately influenced their plans.
"Come on," encouraged Caroline, slipping out of Kate's grasp and pulling her towards the door, " it'll still be there in the morning."
"The washing up?" asked Kate sleepily, not protesting, the day's varied events definitely taking its toll on her.
"That too," agreed Caroline, turning out the lights as, hand in hand, she guided Kate towards the stairs, " but I actually meant that feeling I get when you kiss me like that," before she demonstrated exactly what she meant with another long, leisurely kiss.
"Definitely still there in the morning," confirmed Kate before, treading lightly so as not to rouse the hopefully sleeping Lawrence, they headed upstairs to Caroline's bedroom: like washing up, love would still be there in the morning
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